Child Poverty Costs the US Nearly $1.1 Trillion Every Year
A new report could spur legislative action.
A group of experts tapped by Congress released a report on Friday that takes on the crisis of child poverty in the United States.
Across nearly 600 pages, the bipartisan “Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty” report describes the dimensions of child poverty in the US and suggests a few policy prescriptions that could ease the problem.
From a purely economic perspective, ending child poverty makes a lot of sense. In fact, the authors of the report estimate that child poverty costs the US economy $800 billion to $1.1 trillion every year due to higher crime, poor health outcomes, and lower income levels when poor kids grow up.
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As a result, any funding aimed at reducing child poverty would actually save the government money, the authors suggest.
But the authors stress that there are many more pressing reasons to end child poverty.
Around 20% of children in the US live in poverty, and that number rises to nearly 30% in states like Mississippi, according to the US Census Bureau.
Growing up in poverty has serious consequences that can affect a child for life.
“A child growing up in a family whose income is below the poverty line experiences worse outcomes than a child from a wealthier family in virtually every dimension, from physical and mental health, to educational attainment and labor market success, to risky behaviors and delinquency,” the authors write in the report.
The stress associated with poverty can disrupt the brain’s development, the regulation of hormones, and more. Poverty is correlated with long-term health and behavioral problems, lower educational attainment, and higher incarceration rates. The cyclical nature of poverty means that adults who grew up in poverty are most likely to raise children in poverty.
Overall, these interconnected injustices amount to a human rights violation, according to the United Nations.
The Congressional report suggests a few ways to curb child poverty.
For the most part, the recommendations focus on improving work incentives, providing job training to people living in poverty, and expanding welfare benefits such as food stamps and housing vouchers.
The report also calls for a modest increase to the federal minimum wage to $10.25, and greater tax rebates for families with children.
Many of these recommendations have already been introduced in bills pushed by members of Congress, meaning the new report could bolster ongoing attempts to combat child poverty, according to Vox.
Other experts argue for more ambitious programs to end child poverty, including expanding parental leave, free child care, pre-K, free school lunches, and more.
Nevertheless, this latest report adds momentum to a growing movement.
“America’s future is not as secure as it could be because millions of American children live in families with incomes below the poverty line,” the report says. “A wealth of evidence suggests that a lack of adequate economic resources for families with children compromises these children’s ability to grow and achieve adult success, hurting them and the broader society.”